Exclusive: Tekle Sundberg’s Parents Recall the Moments Snipers from the Minneapolis Police ‘Executed’ Their Son

With journal entries and interviews, Cindy and Mark Sundberg share their experiences living through their son being killed by police.

“‘They’re in place on the roof.’ When I heard that I was pretty sure how the night was going to end. I was beginning to panic.” – Mark Sundberg, Tekle’s father

Cindy and Mark Sundberg arrived at their 20-year-old son Tekle’s apartment building late on July 13, 2022. The two found police had surrounded their child’s home in response to Tekle having a mental health crisis, and a standoff had begun as police tried to compel him to leave his apartment. Several hours later, Tekle was shot to death by police perched in sniper positions on a roof across the street.

Now, one year later, Tekle’s parents are sharing their memories of that night with Unicorn Riot. Through journal entries and interviews, Cindy and Mark Sundberg recount the events surrounding their son’s death, their mistreatment by police, and the pain of losing a child.

Tekle’s mother painfully relives her experience during an interview with Unicorn Riot:

“My memory works in snapshots of that night, haunted by flashbacks that take me right back there. I have replayed that night over and over and what sticks with me, what shreds my already broken heart, is thinking of Tekle dying alone. Of knowing he died so scared and so alone.”

Cindy Sundberg, mother of Andrew ‘Tekle’ Sundberg (killed by police on July 14, 2022)

In the midst of a mental health crisis, in which shots were allegedly fired from inside Sundberg’s apartment, heavily armed units of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) held a six-hour “standoff” at the building in which Tekle had been living for over two years with his cat. Two MPD officers, Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine, stationed themselves on the roof of a nearby apartment building and fired two shots killing Tekle as he appeared at his window with a tool-like object in his hand.

Police video released at a July 20, 2022 press conference shows four segments from body cameras of four different Minneapolis police officers. None of the body-cam segments show Tekle holding or firing a weapon and none of it shows Sundberg saying anything threatening to officers. 

Five months after the killing and just a few days before Christmas, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman concluded that the fatal shooting of Tekle was justified and that no officers would be charged. 

This special features some of the intimate thoughts of two parents witnessing the killing of their son while in crisis, dealing with the direct aftermath and their reaction to the news of no prosecution and the media coverage that followed along with a look at police protocol while handling a mental health crisis.

Before this publication there hasn’t been many accounts offering transparency around the moments Tekle was fatally shot by snipers from the MPD were. The day after their son was killed, Cindy and Mark’s statements captured in an interview by independent journalist Georgia Fort. A neighbor of Tekle recorded a 12-minute video of the fateful moments from across the street. And a team of volunteer researchers from Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), put together a compilation video featuring footage with various angles and perspectives, released two weeks after the killing.

At the end of CUAPB’s video, they note that their investigation concluded that Tekle’s death was not justified. See the eyewitness video, description, reactions to the video and CUAPB’s compilation video in the tabs below. To view the entries, click the heading tab – the tab that appears purple is selected.

Eyewitness Video

[Content Advisory] Eyewitness Community Video – MPD Killing of Tekle Sundberg
Video Description

In the first four minutes of the civilian video, Tekle can be seen hanging out the window in sweatpants without a shirt holding his phone. The bystanders filming can be heard saying, “It looks like he’s checking for reception or something.” At the 3:44 minute marker, Tekle goes back inside and the bystanders follow him inside with the light of his phone. Then the say, “They [the police] shot out his f*cking window and he’s hanging out the window and they are f*cking right next to him ready to run a gun in there.”  

Tekle doesn’t respond to the frequent police demands to come out with his hands up to be arrested. At the 5:10 minute marker, music can be heard coming from Tekle’s apartment. Thirty seconds later, Tekle can be seen coming back outside carrying a larger object with writing on it, which the bystanders say looked like a Ouija board or an oblong piece of wood. 

At the 7:35 minute marker, it appears Tekle is talking into his phone on the window ledge with most of his body dangling outside. Those filming narrating, “Oh my god he is so f*cked up. He doesn’t even know what he’s doing…oh my god, he’s gonna fall, he’s gonna fall on his f*cking face…who is he on the phone with? I can almost hear him say, ‘not really.’”

At the 8:38 minute marker Tekle is seen kicking broken glass on his window. At the 9:23 minute marker Tekle can be seen tapping the broken glass. The bystanders’ continue narrating what they see, “Oh shit does he have a knife” and then two gunshots can be heard and you see Tekle’s body fall down near the window. “They shot him. Holy f*ck. I think he had a knife and he was beating the glass some more. That’s f*cked up. He’s like crumpled over on the window sill.”

Reactions to the Video

In response to the civilian video, Cindy Sundberg states: “I’m so thankful we have this footage or we wouldn’t know what actually happened. This shows exactly what Tekle was doing when he was executed; he was doing what he had been doing all night, chipping at glass in the window — glass pieces that were only there because the police shot rounds of rubber bullets into his apartment. He wasn’t pointing anything at anyone, and he was showing obvious signs of having a mental health crisis. Anyone watching his behavior can see that he needed help, even the people filming. Tekle never responded violently or showed signs of aggression, even after MPD shot rubber bullets into his apartment in order to ‘get things moving’ as they said. It feels like they wanted him to respond to those rubber bullets, to justify killing him, because they wouldn’t let Mark and I inside to help him. The moment he was killed he was inside his apartment near his window doing the same things he had been doing for hours, chipping at the glass. The police had no reason for killing him, and so I call his death an execution.”

Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, states that: “Anyone watching the civilian video can see Tekle is having a mental health crisis and that he was not a threat to anyone the moment he was killed. The fact that they fired several rounds of rubber bullets into his apartment in an attempt to escalate the situation of someone mentally unstable shows exactly what kind of police force they are, one that lacks compassion and  humanity. And I want to point out that we have white men who shoot directly at the police and they make it through that encounter alive because there is a value for their lives. Black men don’t have the same value labeled on their lives. And it is shown and proven over and over again. We see the privilege for some and the lack of value for others. Law enforcement and the state of Minnesota have consistently been exposed. According to the United States Department of Justice, it has been documented by our federal government in the recent report. So we all see what’s going on. And had his parents been allowed into the apartment to help their son, we would have a very different outcome.” 

Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, stated at a press conference when the compilation video was released, “There is no law that says Tekle’s dad couldn’t have gone to help support his son and kept him alive. There is no official police protocol that prevents that from happening.” 

CUAPB Compilation Video

CUAPB Compilation Video – Minneapolis Police Killing of Tekle Sundberg – YouTube

Journal Entries from Tekle’s Father, Mark Sundberg

We start by bringing you back to the fatal summer night of July 13 and early morning July 14 and focusing on the journal entries of Mark Sundberg, the father of Tekle.

Mark relived some of the worst moments of his life that night in his entries. He details his thoughts, conversations he had and the events that transpired from his point of view. He also wrote about the moments and days after his son was killed, returning to Tekle’s apartment, and trying to get answers from agents in Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), who investigate police killings.

Mark said he was hoping that by publishing his writings as a key witness to his son’s death, the community would better understand what happened that night and charges would be brought against the officers. There are 19 journal entries that Mark provided. To read the entries, click the heading tab – the tabs in yellow are selected and show text below them.

The Call

“Cindy got a call about 11:30 or 11:40 from Rusty, an officer at the MPD. I don’t know exactly what he said but it was about Tekle holed up in his apartment with a gun, shots had been fired. Rusty asked Cindy a few things about Tekle’s state of mind. I told Cindy to ask him if we could go to the apartment and Rusty said we could but had to check in with a patrol on the corner of Franklin and Cedar. Aaron and Zene were still up. We told them we were going to Tekle’s apartment because he was in some trouble. They wondered what kind of trouble, and we said that we didn’t know.”

The Drive

“We drove down Minnehaha not really saying much that I can remember, just going back and forth wondering what happened. Is he okay? Is he alive? Is anyone else hurt?

What could have happened?”

Arriving at the Scene

“We got to Franklin and Cedar and checked in with an officer. She directed us to the back of the firehouse across from Taco Bell. Rusty was there and another woman said she was a civilian something or another. I don’t remember her name. This was maybe 12 midnight or so. They asked questions about Tekle: has he had trouble in the past? Has he contacted us? Does he have mental health issues? Did we know he had a gun?”

The Scene

“At about 1:00 a.m., Rusty asked me to make a video pleading with Tekle to give himself up. I did, but I told him it was a waste of time. He’s not going to look at it. I took a few videos but I don’t think Rusty was impressed. I don’t know what he did with them. Then he asked me to make an audio recording telling Tekle, “This is your dad Tek, please come out. Your mom is here too. Please come out.” I’m not sure if that is exactly what I said, but it’s close. He sent that out to the officer that continued to bellow out his megaphone every five minutes for Tekle to come out with his hands up. They used my recording several times to get his attention but it didn’t work obviously.”

MPD Give Reassurance That Tekle Will Not Be Shot

“Cindy asked with tears in her eyes if they were going to shoot Tekle. I think she directed it to the civilian woman, who’s role we still don’t really know, but Rusty said, “Of course we are not going to shoot him. That is ridiculous. We don’t do that.” The woman then said, “No no, we won’t do that.” Rusty then said, “We have many nonlethal ways to deal with this situation. He will not be shot.” Cindy was pretty upset and asked if there was a bathroom she could use. Rusty said she could use the firehouse restroom. He brought us around to the front and when she went in Rusty began to bemoan the fact that everyone thinks the police just shoot people all the time. “It’s just not fair,” he said. I just don’t know why people feel that way. It’s really hard for us.” I almost felt sorry for him.

We were secluded in an area behind the firehouse with 8’ chainlink fence on two other sides and behind us was the street and the Taco Bell. Rusty wanted me to try calling and texting Tekle, which I did but he wouldn’t respond, which I knew he wouldn’t and told that to Rusty several times.”

Messages I Sent Tekle

“What’s going on Tek?

The cops called us. Said something is going on

Please let us know you are ok 

Answer the 413 number You need to do this

If you hear anything at the door just lay on the ground and don’t move. Seriously do not move if they approach you.”

Pleading with MPD

“Cindy told Rusty a few times that having a white cop yelling to Tekle to come out with his hands up was a bad idea. She wanted them to have a Black cop talk to him. That never happened.

From the time we got there, I was begging Rusty to let me go to Tekle’s door and talk to him. I knew I could end this in ten minutes with no one getting hurt.

Rusty just scoffed at the idea and said, “There is no way that is going to happen.” 

Another cop came through at about 3:30 am when they saw I was getting restless and inching my way from the secluded confined areas. I asked if there was any chance Tekle was going to get shot. He said rudely, “No” but he wouldn’t look me in the eye.”

Every 5 Minutes

“They would go over the loudspeaker and demand that Tekle come out. Probably one of their non lethal tactics that never work.”

The Only Moment of Kindness

“Someone from the fire department offered us coffee, which was nice.”

The Drone

“We did see the drone they talked about earlier in the night. It went up in the air, probably 150 feet in front of us, then crashed into the apartment building. Quite impressive. Maybe they need to hire a 12 year old to show them how it works. We didn’t see another drone.”

Moments Before Tekle’s Murder

“About 3:45 a.m. some cops went to the back of the apartment near us and started taping everything off with caution tape. Two or three cops in riot gear went to the side door. They were real careful all night that no one had the radio on when they were around us. One of the cops putting the caution tape had their radio on and we heard, “They’re in place on the roof.” When I heard that I was pretty sure how the night was going to end. I was beginning to panic.”

40MM Marker Rounds

“The civilian woman came over and told us they were going to shoot non-lethal bullets into his apartment to get him to respond because he hadn’t been responding. ‘I’m just gonna let you know you’re going to hear some shots. Don’t worry they are non-lethal. We wanna see if we can get him to respond.'” From the radio I heard them say, ‘We are up on the building now.’

After I heard the rubber bullets, I took off and tried to get around to Tekle’s building. A handful of officers stopped me and threatened to arrest me.”

The Shots

“I was pacing back and forth along the fence. I could see Cindy looking absolutely stricken. I was hoping she wasn’t thinking what I was thinking. At about 4:15 [a.m.] or so we heard 2 loud shots. We both knew what it was.”

Immediately After We Heard Tekle Was Murdered

“I started running to the front of the apartment. I got halfway around the Franklin side and 4 cops stopped me. They were really rude. Told me to get back where I was. They say you have no business going any further. I asked one particularly arrogant cop what he would do if it was his son and of course he didn’t answer. After that, everyone just stopped talking to us.”

After What Felt Like Forever

A cop asked us if we were okay to drive to HCMC [Hennepin County Medical Center] by ourselves. We still didn’t know if our son was dead or alive.


“We got in our car and headed for HCMC [Hennepin County Medical Center]. I don’t even remember what we said to each other. I know I was afraid to say what I thought. Cindy probably was too. We got to HCMC emergency entry and went in. Told them we wanted to see our son who was just shot by the MPD. They told us to wait. We paced around the crowded entry trying to keep it together. Finally someone put us in the chapel and said a doctor would be with us soon. Fifteen minutes went by and two medical staff came into the room. It was obvious to me this was going to be the worst outcome possible. They were kind and respectful and told us our son was dead. Cindy was crying hard and I just felt numb. We asked to see him and they said ‘no.’ We asked why and they said because of an ongoing investigation. What the hell does that really mean?”

Finally Allowed to See Our Son

“A week later we were able to see him at the mortuary, but while his body was still warm he had to stay on a stainless-steel table – alone. We didn’t argue with them as we knew it would do no good. The MPD were calling the shots and they didn’t care. Could someone give me a good reason we could not say goodbye to our son? Please.”

Coming Home

“We got out of there as fast as we could. Cindy was crying harder. I was crying and just kept swearing at the MPD while driving. I’ve never swore so much in my life. After several minutes of this Cindy said we had to get it together because we had a lot of other family we had to talk do. She texted the whole family and told them to meet at our house. This was about 5:00 a.m. Again, I don’t remember what I said on the way home. Our kids began arriving. We tried to tell them one on one. It was so terribly hard. I can’t even go into how hard it was. The worst day of our lives. There was anger. So much anger it was overshadowing my sadness. But the anger is what saved me from going into absolute despair. Everything was so unreal and real at the same time. I had to keep it together for the family. No choice.”

Going to Tekle’s Apartment

“I decided to go to his apartment. Thought maybe I could have a reasonable discussion about the events with someone in authority. Didn’t really work out for me. I was a block away and just wanted to go down the street near the building and the officer standing on the corner wouldn’t let me near the building. ‘I’m just gonna go,’ I said. He replied, ‘If you go I’ll arrest you.’ One officer said she would go get someone to talk to me. She didn’t come back and no one came to talk to me. I tried to talk to other officers but they just ignored me or told me to stay away.

One of my daughters was already there looking for Tekle’s cat.

BCA Laughs

“Finally someone from BCA approached me. At least he was civil but couldn’t tell me anything. I caught up with my daughter looking for Tekle’s cat. Members of BCA said they would look if she was still around. My daughter said, ‘They won’t shoot her, will they?’ A big guy from BCA laughed and said, ‘Of course the cat won’t get shot. Why would you even ask that?’ I said I heard those exact words a few hours earlier about my son. He responded, ‘Yeah, ok.'”

Mark Sundberg reads to his son Tekle.
Tekle Sundberg sits atop his father Mark’s shoulders to decorate a Christmas tree.
Mark Sundberg with his son Tekle

Tekle’s Mother, Cindy Sundberg Speaks Out

Hearing the gun shots I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t control my body. I became dizzy and disoriented.” – Cindy Sundberg, Tekle’s mother

In attempts to gain some insight into what Tekle’s mother Cindy went through from and during this incident, we sat down for a lengthy conversation. We separated what Cindy said into eight topics. To read the entries, hover over the heading tab and click – the tabs in yellow are selected and show text below them:

‘Please Don’t Shoot Him

“Mostly what I remember from that night is begging everyone not to shoot Tekle. I remember just begging over and over, ‘Please don’t shoot him.’ And they kept saying, ‘Why do you think that? Why would you think cops just kill people?’ And all I kept thinking again and again was that they were going to shoot him. ‘They are not going to shoot him,’ we were reassured again and again. ‘No, we’re not going to do anything like that.’

When they said they were shooting rubber bullets into his apartment, my heart raced and I couldn’t control my cries. I panicked. I pleaded again to not shoot him. Were they trying to find a reason to shoot him? I begged for them not to, knowing rubber bullets flying into his apartment would terrify him. Again, I was told that they weren’t going to shoot him with fatal bullets. I then heard a round of rubber bullets. A lot of rubber bullets fired into his apartment. Then it was quiet for a while. Then we heard two gunshots. These were the only shots fired in the many hours we had been there. These were the two shots that entered Tekle’s body, killing him.”

Gun Shots

Hearing the gun shots I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t control my body. I became dizzy and disoriented.

Panic Mode When I’m Near a Cop

“I teach mindfulness to my students and have been trying to use it myself, but no amount of mindfulness gets you through something like this. Every time I am near a cop, my body goes into panic mode. I start shaking and crying and can’t breathe. Every time I hear sirens or see a commercial for a cop show, I get a flashback of that night. It has impacted my work. How do you work when your brain is in trauma response? I would look at the little kids in my class and think of my black and brown students: ‘What’s it gonna be like when you’re older and you’re not a child and people don’t think you’re cute? People will think you’re a threat. What’s going to happen to you?’ And all of a sudden I’d be back there at the apartment and it invades everything that I do. I think about the other impacted families. And then there’s watching my kids struggle and not knowing how to support them because I’m such a mess.”

Broken Heart

As a mom my heart is so broken from losing Tekle. I was sitting on the deck one night and thought that I heard him at the gate. I saw a kid on the street and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s Tek.’ And every single day is just so horrendously horrible. It’s so sad that he’s never going to meet his youngest nephew. He’s going to miss out on knowing him. We’re going to miss out on so many things.

Tekle the Cat Dad

“Tekle was a good human. He had this cat, Cali, and this cat is a good cat because of how he raised her. She beats up the dogs and she’s gentle with the grandkids. Tekle was such a good cat dad and he’d go on adventures with her in his backpack.

Cali was found in the bushes outside that same day. The first night at our house she slept on Tekle’s hoodie and his backpack.

Deepest Sadness Ever

“If the execution of your child is not enough to spin you into the deepest sadness you have ever felt, there’s all the hatred and the slandering of his name. The grief was almost easier at first because I was in such a state of shock and horror and brokenness and I just didn’t care what anyone else was saying. I couldn’t even look outside. But now, things just pop up and suddenly so many people were talking about him in such a dehumanizing way and it’s an instant gut punch. And sometimes no one is talking about it, or doesn’t even know what happened to him, and that’s a gut punch as well. And nowhere is there ever any expression of the beauty in his soul and the worth of him and his humanity, and the incredible potential that was lost.”

‘We Don’t Know Anything’

“Every day there is never relief. There will always be the missing and the sadness and nothing is going to help with the loss of him from our lives, but what is possible is the city to give us answers. How can we grieve when we don’t have any closure? We don’t have his phone, we don’t see why it happened. We don’t know how many minutes it was before he died.

We have the autopsy report now and have seen the report from Hennepin County saying they aren’t charging the executioners. We have seen small videos from the BCA, but they won’t release the whole report or the rest of the videos. We have not seen any video footage with Tekle holding a gun. We have not seen any police body cam footage of when he was shot. Everything we have seen, shows that he was not a threat to anyone at the time he was shot.

We don’t know anything. It’s insane.”

Unanswered Questions

“So many questions go through my head: why did they shoot him? What made them shoot him when his behavior hadn’t changed? Who gave the orders for him to be shot? Why didn’t they do anything to help him? Those questions ran through my head that night, the night after, and they are the same questions months later.

No one has spoken to us to explain why Tekle was shot, in what way was he a threat to anyone other than himself? The MPD knows they were not justified in shooting him, killing him in any way, otherwise their reasons would be publicly known and the video and reports would be released in full, and there is nothing but silence on their end. That silence is telling.”

When it’s all said and done, Cindy said maybe what hurts the most is “knowing he died so scared and so alone.”

“The doctors said he died in the hospital. Why couldn’t we go be with him the moment we got to HCMC? Why wouldn’t they allow us to ride with him in the ambulance so he didn’t die alone.

Imagine being so close to where your son was and not being allowed to be with him and hold his hand as his spirit left his body.

None of that night makes sense to me and my grief of not being able to be with my son as he took his final breath haunts me.”

Cindy Sundberg


Tekle grew up in a very close and loving family in South Minneapolis.


Tekle loved nature. He loved to be outside, to be in the garden, to take walks and go down to the Mississippi River. Tekle had many hobbies, enjoyed playing sports and was on the high school wrestling team.

False Narratives Run by Corporate Media

Mark and Cindy both expressed immense disappointment and heartbreak in both the Star Tribune and WCCO in their portrayal of their son and the facts around the case. Cindy wrote WCCO a letter on Oct. 23, 2022, asking them to redact false information they published when they “initially reported that Tekle shot out of his apartment window at the police moments before they shot him.” They have yet to respond. Unicorn Riot reached out to WCCO and is still waiting to hear back.

Tekle’s Parents on the Media Portrayal of Their Son

Cindy Sundberg: “The Star Tribune made it seem like we were cooperating with the police that night when that wasn’t the case. We were desperately pleading with them not to shoot our son and couldn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to go help him. And WCCO initially reported that Tekle shot out of his apartment window at the police, which wasn’t true at all. The only shots fired in the early morning hours were from the snipers. My husband and I were there. We heard two shots. The video shows two shots. Their words directly impacted how the world saw what happened and these false narratives add to the immense grief that never ends.”

Mark Sundberg: “The media needs to look at the truth so the community can know the truth. The truth is that shots from Tekle entered the neighbor’s apartment across the hall. He shot at his bathroom mirror, the rounds exited his apartment, flew across the hall, and entered the apartment of his neighbor. This was horrifying for her and her children. There was no doubt about that, and Tekle should have been held responsible for that and taken his punishment. I don’t think it would have been execution, though. Ask any mental health professional what shooting at your mirror would most likely mean, and it wouldn’t be aggression toward another person. Tekle did not die from a mental health crisis. He was killed by two snipers from MPD.” 

Mental Health Crisis

Police killings reached record numbers in the U.S. last year with at least 1,192 people killed by police. Studies have shown that half of all people killed by police had a disability and one-in-four people killed by police are dealing with severe mental illness (pdf).

Due to a traumatic brain injury from an ATV accident when Tekle was 12, his mother said that his brain would “process things slower and often he is resistant to direct commands.” Suffering from PTSD and going through a crisis caused extra fear for Cindy who said, “I knew there was no way he was going to come out with the fear-based strategies the police were using.”

Minneapolis Police have a long history of violently interacting with community members going through crisis. CUAPB notes that in a three-week period between Nov. and Dec. 2018, Minnesota police killed “five people experiencing mental health crisis.”

One of those killed during that period was Travis Jordan, who in 2021, had new legislation, Travis’ Law, named after him, which prompts police to include mental health crisis teams on police calls, where available.

Despite the new laws, mental health professionals were never called to the scene for Tekle. Hallie Olson, a mental health professional of 12 years in the Twin Cities, said the police should’ve brought their behavioral crisis team to the scene as opposed to a full riot squad.

“A mental health professional should be responding to every EBD call – that’s what these calls are called when they come through 911 – an emotional behavioral disturbance. Police are not trained to respond to EBD calls as a mental health crisis. The police should have brought their Behavior Crisis Response (BCR) team that is contracted through Canopy Mental Health & Consulting, but in this case they didn’t, which is pretty absurd considering they were out there for hours until they escalated things to death.”  

Hallie Olson, mental health professional

When asked why she thinks MPD didn’t call anyone from the BCR team, which prides itself in responding to over 3,300 calls with zero injuries in their first nine months of operating, Olson explained it was because a weapon was involved.

“Whenever a weapon is involved, the police take over, and that’s when mental health practitioners are needed most. Even if they weren’t going into Tekle’s apartment, the crisis team should have been consulted on protocol. They probably would have agreed with me in that Tekle’s parents should have been allowed to help their son stabilize. But officers know mental health professionals will not agree with firing live bullets into someone having a crisis, and so we aren’t consulted when it comes to weapons. If we were, much of police protocols would be under scrutiny.”  

Hallie Olson, mental health professional

While speaking with Unicorn Riot about her thoughts, Cindy mentioned how she communicated to the mediator and police that Tekle had PTSD and that all of this would overwhelm him.

“I told them that he had a traumatic brain injury from an accident from when he was 12. His brain processes things slower and often he is resistant to direct commands. In his IEP [individualized education program] at school there were modifications specifying that teachers repeat instructions, because his first response is “no” based on his PTSD. I knew there was no way he was going to come out with the fear-based strategies the police were using.

I told the civilian mediating between us and police to communicate that Tekle knows how Black people are treated by cops and that he believes that if he walks out of this apartment, he will be shot dead. As a parent of a Black child, I knew this could happen, and we taught Tekle how to keep himself as safe as he could when interacting with the police. And he wasn’t able to access any of that information in his brain because they traumatized him and then snipers shot him without even trying to go in to talk to him and de-escalate his mental health crisis.”

Cindy Sundberg, mother of Tekle Sundberg

Hennepin County Report

On Dec. 21, 2022, along with the announcement that the authorities would bring no charges against the police officers involved in killing Tekle, Mike Freeman’s office released a 39-page report, detailing their findings.

One of the two snipers that killed Tekle, SWAT Officer Aaron Pearson, admitted on page seven of the report that he “couldn’t hear or understand most of what he [Sundberg] was saying.” Pearson is also the same SWAT member who said “good job, bud” to one of the snipers in the killing of Amir Locke, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and Minnesota Attorney General’s Office joint report


“Today is the day Hennepin County prosecutors had Cindy and I go downtown so they could explain why they decided not to prosecute either of the snipers that shot my son Tekle to death. We both were 90% sure what their decision would be, but when your last 10% goes away it hits hard. The lead investigators said they don’t have enough evidence to proceed. I was told that based on the evidence, and the law, and based on the totality of the circumstances known to law enforcement at the time, they have concluded that the officer’s use of deadly force was authorized.

Authorized by who? Themselves? They said they saw a gun. I don’t know what they were looking at, but what I saw through the window when Tekle got shot did not look like a gun. It looked like a tool that he was knocking glass out of the window with. These are highly trained snipers that should have seen that! Also, who was in imminent danger? The cops on the ground were huddled at the entry, out of sight. If the snipers were any good, they would not have let Tekle see them. The other multitude of cops were out of sight milling around the coffee trailer. Several were positioned so I wouldn’t run up and God forbid, try to talk to my son. The investigators said there were no other videos available besides the one taken by a citizen in an apartment across the street. A multitude of cops with hundreds of hours of body cam, and none, absolutely none, were trained on the window where Tekle was shot dead? They couldn’t be bothered with documenting the shooting? Or did they just not want to?

Officers Pearson and Seraphine say Tekle was aiming a gun at officers when they shot him. But we can see from the civilian footage that he was inside his apartment when he was shot with no gun in his hand. What officers was he aiming this supposed gun at? Out of the hundreds of hours of body cam, do we have a snippet that shows this? They had a lot of time to come up with these stories. And, it was printed in the Star Tribune so now people will see that as truth. But the truth can’t be found in the report from the officers.”

Mark Sundberg, father of Tekle Sundberg

The BCA report has yet to be released to the public. The Sundberg’s were allowed to see snippets of the video, but not the entirety of the information. BCA agents asked the parents, “What do you want to see?” and Cindy replied, “I want to see everything you don’t want us to see.” The city is refusing to release the rest of information to them, despite protesters’ demands for transparency.

“This emotional terrorism is what they do to break us,” Cindy said. “They want us so broken that you can’t keep fighting. But then I see the other impacted families standing up. And it’s like Amir Locke’s mom said, ‘They want us to stop fighting, but they don’t know his mom.’ And they don’t know me either. They don’t know what it’s like to get up in the morning with such sadness, and most days I don’t know how to keep fighting, but I will. I am Tekle’s mother, and I will keep fighting.”

One year after the killing, Cindy and Mark are still seeking answers and accountability. They continue to demand that the BCA release the complete, unredacted police videos to the public and return Tekle’s property, including his phone and computer. They demand to know why, while Tekle posed no imminent threat, police decided to execute him after blowing out his windows with less-lethal rounds.

The family is also demanding that the police publicly take accountability for the ways they escalated, rather than deescalated, the situation. They want the person who gave the go-ahead to shoot Tekle specifically identified and answers as to why police resorted to force instead of established best practices for responding to a mental health crisis.

Cindy and Mark said they want the MPD to take responsibility for their lack of humanity in viewing Tekle as a real human being worthy of the constitutional protections every person deserves.

A vigil was held in front of Tekle’s apartment hours after he was killed by police during the night of July 14, 2022. Several of Tekle’s high school teachers spoke of their memories of him. His sister also spoke. See the video below.

Niko Georgiades contributed to this report for Unicorn Riot.

Cover image by Niko Georgiades for Unicorn Riot using images of Tekle Sundberg provided by his family.

Follow us on X (aka Twitter), Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Mastodon, Threads, BlueSky and Patreon.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation to help sustain our horizontally-organized, non-profit media organization: supportourworknew

The Mothers Podcast
More from Unicorn Riot 🦄